Keselowski may have to watch back
Brad Keselowski still hasn’t made amends with Kyle Busch.
Last Sunday, Keselowski slid into Busch on an oil-slicked track at Watkins Glen and knocked him out of the lead on the final lap. Keselowski said that, because of the conditions of the track, ”There was nothing I could do.”
After the race, however, Keselowski tracked down Busch’s crew chief Dave Rogers. He attempted to contact Busch, but acknowledged: “Every number I had for him was bad or something.”
Looking back, Keselowski called the situation “unfortunate.”
“Dumping the leader on the last lap is not something that I want to be known for,” Keselowski said Friday after qualifying 19th for Sunday’s Michigan 400.
“It’s obviously something that happened, and everybody has a different perspective as to whether it was right, wrong or somewhere in between. I’m probably right in the middle of that, how I feel about it.
“I feel like we’re all going for the same spot. I obviously push real hard. He wasn’t going to give it up. I’d like to talk to him first to truly understand his perspective.”
Marcos Ambrose bested Keselowski for the win at Watkins Glen. Keselowski finished second — the same position as in the Nationwide Series race one day earlier, when he elected to back off his longtime nemesis Carl Edwards.
Keselowski later acknowledged that he gave that win away. Why?
“I’m banking on nice-guy points on that one,” Keselowski said.
With the Chase just four races away, now is the time to atone for past sins. Keselowski has kept his nose clean this season. His three wins — and string of six consecutive top 10 finishes since the race at Kentucky Speedway on June 30 — have elevated Keselowski to fifth in the point standings.
And with Bristol Motor Speedway on the schedule for next weekend — a track that’s custom-made for getting both mad and even — Keselowski will either have to apologize to Busch beforehand or keep an eye on his rear-view mirror.
The latter would be a shame considering that Keselowski has won the last two races at BMS and led 232 of 500 laps on the half-mile track in March.
Busch declined to comment after the incident at the Glen. He chose the same option after qualifying 23rd at Michigan International Speedway on Friday.
Perhaps Keselowski will have better luck with Busch — but then again, maybe not.
“It certainly wasn’t something that I wanted to see happen,” Keselowski said. “It wasn’t something that I intended for to happen, but it obviously happened, and I can’t make that go away and can only hope that he understands as a racer that things like that happen, and it’s just sometimes part of the breaks.”
THE HEAT IS ON
In racing, there are all different levels of pressure.
And the weight of the stress increases commensurate to the expectations of the driver.
For some teams, there’s pressure just to make the race. For other teams, anything short of winning is a disappointment.
For five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who moved to the top of the standings last Sunday for the first time this season, there also are varying degrees of pressure as the points leader.
“It’s not the same pressure as the Chase,” Johnson said. “But a points leader is a points leader. And when you look at all the events we’ve had and what’s going on, there is a lot of prestige involved with it. It means you’re running well. Leading the points is leading the points, in my opinion.
“So, we’re again glad to be there. Hopefully, we can stay on top and ideally pull away and continue to gain more points than anyone else and be in that rhythm and mindset entering the Chase.”
Johnson’s time on top could be short-lived, however. He holds just a one-point advantage over second-place Greg Biffle and a two-point lead over third-place Matt Kenseth. Johnson has never won at Michigan — one of just four tracks on the current Sprint Cup schedule where the champ has yet to be victorious. The last time Johnson led the points after Michigan was 2006. He’ll start third on Sunday.
4 — Sprint Cup poles for Mark Martin in 15 attempts in 2012. With 55 career Cup poles overall, he’s tied for seventh all-time with Bill Elliott.
4 — Fords qualified in the top 10 for the Pure Michigan 400.
145 — Point advantage for any driver over 11th place in the standings after Sunday’s race that will lock into the Chase
Team owner Tony Stewart insists that Ryan Newman’s deal for 2013 is not complete:
“There is nothing different. There is nothing new than what I have told you in the past, and as soon as we have something different than what is going on, we will be the first to tell you guys.”